VQ Newsletter November 2013

This issue of VQ Newsletter is dedicated to the two-day Stockholm Legal Business Summit held on 13-14 November 2013. The summit was arranged by Virtual Intelligence VQ and the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce (SCC) jointly, hosting one day each. With this approach we could create a joint legal strategy event focusing on the changing legal landscape from different aspects.

More than 200 in-house practitioners, legal advisers, law firm managers and other legal professionals from around the world attended the Summit to discuss strategy and key developments in the legal market.

The first day of the Summit was hosted by Virtual Intelligence VQ and the fourth VQ Knowledge and Strategy Forum. Focus for this day was on innovation in practice and how to go from strategy to a practical reality in the changing legal landscape.

The second day was hosted by SCC. The program for this day targeted commercial objectives in interational dispute resolution, and the importance of mediation in this context.

This year’s VQ Forum had a more practical focus addressing issues such as “How do we adapt to the current ‘state of flux’? How are the changing conditions affecting legal service providers in practice? How can we develop new legal services, products and tools to take the innovative market leading position? As legal professionals we might realize that we need to change the way in which we do business and charge for our services – but are we creative enough to make it happen, to really move from pricing differently to working differently?”

Key note speaker D. Casey Flaherty, corporate counsel at Kia Motors America, provided his insights on how buyers of legal services support and drive change in the legal market. With a background from BigLaw, he has knowledge of how big law firms work and how the lack of proficiency with the common software tools at their disposal (Word, Excel, Acrobat, etc.) result in an inordinate amount of time wasted that is still billed to clients. To drive change, he has therefore developed a basic technology competency audit to help buyers of legal service examine outside counsel’s technology skills to avoid inefficiencies in low value added work.

D. Casey Flaherty emphasized that there is no need for legal professionals to be experts of all software tools, but they need to be better at the basics. Lawyers are smart and hardworking; if they only knew how to use the tools more efficiently they would. Today there is a myth about the digital native generation for whom all technology will be intuitive, but there is nothing intuitive about work tool software. The key is training. Law firms have the necessary basic tools already, they just need to get the lawyers to attend training. By cutting the firm’s fee with 5% if the lawyers fail his tech audit, D. Casey Flaherty provides a true incentive for lawyers to attend basic IT training onwards.

Cecilia Sternius and Carl Östring from the Board of the Swedish Company Lawyers’ Association (Sw. Bolagsjuristernas Förening) provided insights from a Swedish perspective on the evolution of the role for in-house counsel and explained how the association is taking the lead to drive innovation in Sweden by supporting its members to deliver services to their corporate clients efficiently. A recent survey performed by the association showed that 70% of Swedish in-house counsels have law firm background. This increased transparency is clearly driving change on the Swedish market with higher demands on law firms from in-house counsels.

Law firm representatives Janet Day, IT Director at Berwin Leighton Paisner, Stuart Kay, Global Business Systems Director at Baker & McKenzie, Stefan Erhag, Executive Partner at Delphi, and Lisa Göransson, Head of the Nordic Desk at Allen & Overy, presented different views on ongoing innovation projects and new management approaches to meet the new client demands.

As pointed out by Stuart Kay, all IT project does not have to be gigantic; innovation is about starting. To succeed it’s better to start small and win hearts and minds in the organisation.

Stefan Erhag pointed to three focus areas for law firms wanting to move forward: sales effort, leadership and strong partnership. To increase client relationships, his firm uses feedback as a tool for change, working actively with framework agreements stating annual feedback.

Lisa Göransson shared the insights from Allen & Overy on the need to move up the value chain – from price discussions with clients’ procurement departments to strategic discussion in the clients’ board rooms. Confidence and innovation are the key issues. The firm has therefore created an innovation panel and a lawyer encouragement programme.

In the changing legal marketplace, the war for talent is a strategic business challenge for many law firms. At VQ Forum, Anna Lensmar-Friedman, CEO of Poolia Legal, also presented the results from a conducted profiling study, identifying the common traits driving the individual behaviour of highly successful lawyers. There was also a clear distinction between M&A lawyers and litigation lawyers, with M&A lawyers being “outgoing, self-assertive, competitive and money-driven” and litigation lawyers being “conflict-oriented, super smart abstract thinkers”.

A final case study on a collaboration project provided an inspiring way to the future for clients and outside counsels to drive change jointly and in a collaborative way to benefit all. Inger Brattne, Director of Legal Affairs at Pfizer Sweden, and Ingrid Eliasson, Partner at DLA Nordic, shared their experience from the Pfizer Legal Alliance and how this innovative approach has advanced the value of legal counselling to the partners, their clients and the legal profession.

Following moderator Patricia Shaughnessy’s closing summary of the day, a cocktail reception was held for the participants at Grand Hotel.

For pictures from Stockholm Legal Business Summit please see the following link: VQ Pictures